Well see folks. When people said Kentucky might be a bit better…..well we werent just homers, now were we? The Cats looked very solid in defeating Lindsey Wilson 94-54 in a game that riveted the parts of the state attempting to hide from Louisville’s victory. It was a solid performance for the Cats in which lots of positives stood out and very few negatives. Here is my rundown:
(1) While it is easy to forget based on the second half, a huge shout out has to go to the first half performance of Randolph Morris. I have always found Randolph to be one of the most frustrating players in my time following Kentucky. When he is focused and his energy is on the game, I literally think he is one of the best big men in the country. His performance in the NCAA Tournament his freshman year against Cincinnati was spectactular as he showed the type of ability that made him so hyped to begin with. But all too often he has been content to be lazy….staying on the block, calling for the ball and making no real moves toward scoring. Not tonight. The Randolph from the first half is the type of player that UK has wanted to see forever. Mvoing for the ball, making outside jumpers, attacking on defense and crashing the boards. Morris was a different player tonight and it was exciting to watch.
(2) Ok I know we all roll our eyes at this, but folks what we saw tonight was up-tempo basketball. When a missed shot caromed off, UK pushed the ball up the court, often for open layups or transition jumpers. UK players’ did not simply stand at the top of the key and start the offense, but rather came off screens and looked for the open man quickly. There was a visible difference in the offensive flow of the game and while the players at times looked rusty, they nevertheless were moving at a speed not seen last year. I have said over and over that this will be a more FUN team this season. Tonight’s game showcased why that is my prediction. Last year’s team simply did not score 94 points.
(3) How about the offensive output of Jodie Meeks? I said earlier this month that Jodie is the new Keith Bogans and he showed why tonight. GREAT confidence going up with the basketball, a quick release that helps get open jumpers and an ability to attack the basket at will. I LOVE watching Jodie play and tonight he showed why he will be a bench scorer that gives team’s second units fits. Along those lines you have to love the play of Derrick Jasper who shows more potential for greatness than anyone on UK’s roster. His vision was on display tonight and as he made a number of good passes. In addition, his athleticism was excellent with a number of great moves to the basket. And the best surprise of the evening was fellow freshman Perry Stevenson who actually was inserted into the starting lineup in the second half as he rose to the opportunity given to him by Sheray’s suspension. Perry did what Perry has to do this year…..alter the game on the defensive end with block shots and rebounding. Perry is raw offensively (although he did have a sweet curl move tonight), but on the defensive end, he can change the game. Tonight he showed that ability.
(4) Many of us have asked for this for years and tonight we saw it….Tubby flexibility. It has been frustrating for fans and players in recent years to seemingly have one mistake cause Coach Smith to pull a player out of the game. Not tonight. With the exception of a first half pull of Jared Carter, Tubby let players play through errors and even (GASP!) laughed when Ramel Bradley took a stupid layup in transistion. This seemed to be a more relaxed Tubby and as Martin Newton pointed out (who I thought did a good job tonight by the way), part of that is because he genuinely likes this team. That was something missing last year, and tonight it was great to see.
(5) We have been talking about the newcomers, but oldies Ramel Bradley and Joe Crawford were solid as well. Bradley played within the confines of the offense and didnt get out of control, seizing the role of point guard and dishing to open shooters. I would have liked to see a tad more aggresiveness from Crawford, but he still was effective, going to the basket early and getting open layups for Morris. His best times are still ahead.
All in all, a GREAT performance. AFter the game Joe Crawford said that Derrick Jasper will be “one of the greatest to ever play here.” Look at that sentence again and think about what it means. First of all, it means that Tubby SMith knows a great deal more about recruiting than people sometimes think and that the college assistant who told me that Derrick Jasper would be the best college point guard out of last year’s class may have known something……but also it suggests that this team truly DOES get along and has chemistry. Such comments were somewhat rare last year. People didnt criticize, but they didnt praise. Now they praise, young and old.
I know its Lindsey Wilson….but this is a game to be positive about. And anyone who isnt needs to get off the train now.